Why No "Sort by Name" Feature? RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I'm a software engineer and I've been using Windows since the early years.  I've been a sysadmin and I maintain systems that run for months.  In short, I kind of know what I'm doing.

    As I grow older it seems I am having a bit harder time seeing or finding something that's buried in a list.  I imagine it's a part of my brain that's always been a bit weak and is now growing weaker, and it's clearly related to the limits all people have in perceiving multiple items at once.  

    In short, an arbitrary text item in a list more than a few items long is hidden in plain sight.

    Positional - or at the very least alphabetic - organization is therefore HIGHLY important to me, and I suspect to others as well.

    With the Classic start menu in older versions of the OS, for example, one could learn to expect where things would be positionally, and of course one could always right-click and choose "Sort by Name" to get them in order for an easier visual scan.

    Now we don't have the ability to right click and choose "Sort by Name".  I don't see it when trying to organize the list of stuff that shows when I hit the Start button, I don't see it when I right click the desktop and choose "New...".  Did someone actually put in extra effort to remove this feature?!

    Take the Windows 7 start menu...  Now by default all the stuff you've used recently shows up there.  I guess it's in order of most recently used (or most used?) but in reality it comes off as just a huge jumble!  If you turn off the "Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu" it just goes blank.  And if you put the task bar and start button on the top of the screen, it goes BIG and blank!

    The fact that the kinds of features that help people organize their work environment are being overlooked (or overtly eliminated) in this new version of Windows is a big shame.  If I had to guess I'd say it seems that young people without a lot of experience actually working with Windows and juggling information that's complex to the limits of their abilities are making these UI design change decisions.  I don't need Windows to be more complex to use!  I need more of that limited brain capacity to apply to the tasks I have to do with Windows.

    I'm willing to learn new tricks, and I'm not so old that I can't yet, but why remove the things that make it easier for we humans to get and stay organized?

    Thanks for listening.


    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 5:55 PM

All replies

  • There is no right click to sort by name on start menu scroll items but there is a selection here: 

    Right click on start button > Properties > start menu > sort all programs menu by name

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 6:05 PM
  • Thank you.  I had known about that and I have it checked.  It doesn't seem to apply to the recently used programs list, however.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 6:15 PM
  • Did it arrange the recently used programs list in xp alphabetically, or are they in order by how recently they have bean used?

    For the recently used list I would suspect these will only be arranged according to how recently they have bean opened. Then again this list is not the massive programs list which would be imposible to arrange without alphabetical sort.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 7:11 PM
  • I don't know, as I have always used Classic mode start menus in both XP and Vista. 

    Frankly as it is the recently used programs list is more a nuisance to me than anything else.  I'd have preferred it if when one unchecked the box it would just put up the All Programs menu, but no...

    BTW, the Recently Used Programs list is massive enough so that to me items get completely lost in it...  It's the full height of the screen.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 7:20 PM
  • Personally, have no use, want or need to have Recently Used showing.  It is of no help, that's my feeling.  My suggestion... don't have a Recently Used list, disable it.  I enjoy being w/out it.
    Drew - MS Partner / MS Beta Tester / Pres. Computer Issues
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:17 PM
  • As for me I always remove recent from the start menu. It puts recently used but not the most frequently. I need the most frequently.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:21 PM
  • As for me I always remove recent from the start menu. It puts recently used but not the most frequently. I need the most frequently.

    That would be an improvement.
    I placed the most frequenetly used programs in the frame freed by the diabling of the most recent list.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:36 PM

  • Oh, I just limit it to 5.  Sometimes it's handy upon quick glance.  Sometimes not.  Whatever.

    Shall we discuss the merits of Classic StartMenu?

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:40 PM
  • Shall we discuss the merits of Classic StartMenu?
    No we've beat that one to death enough times.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:49 PM

  • Shall we discuss the merits of Classic StartMenu?

    Are you out of your mind mate?
    How many threads are we going to suffer this debate. FYI I didn't like the classic one, nor the new one. So what.
    I'm not wasting my time on a startmenu, but with programmes like Project, Visual Studio and Office. At the end of the day I put the computer to sleep leaving all the programmes open. Next day, I don't need any startmenu. The only day I switch off the computer is on POET'S day (____ Off Early Tomorrow 's Saturday). The programmes I need Monday morning are all in the StartUp folder. So the schedule monday morning is:
    1) switch on the computer
    2) get a coffee
    3) read my mail
    4) answer the mails
    5) get my projects running


    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:50 PM

  • I seem to be able to find my programs too.     ;)

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:53 PM
  • In XP, I once removed write permission on [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MenuOrder], to prevent Windows from "remembering" the order of Start Menu and Favorites, after I cleared them out.

    This forced Windows to use its default, alphabetical order.

    It worked ok for a while, but it didn't really roam very well.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:57 PM

  • You sure are comfortable banging on the registry.  Maybe you could tell me what book you've been reading?

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 9:02 PM
  • Yeah, I'm in there all the time. I even have shortcuts to regedit in Quick Launch and on the Desktop.

    I haven't read a book in years.  I notice settings and wonder what they do.  So I try changing them.

    I set up a machine and play with it till I break it.  Then I see if I can fix it.  That's how I learn.
    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 9:29 PM
  • Not sure about Windows 7, but Vista has had this problem since it was released and Microsoft refuses to acknowledge it.  If the "Sort ALL Programs menu by name" box is UNCHECKED on the "Customize Start Menu" properties page, any time the "Start Menu" or "All Programs" folders are addressed with a change (that is a manual sort, programmatic addition of A link, etc.) EXPLORER.EXE overwrites the registry key:


    When it should be writing/saving it to:

    HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MenuOrder\Start Menu\Order

    This not only keeps the "Start Menu" order from being saved correctly, but overwrites any "Favorites Menu" sort order you may have had.

    I have confirmed this  by monitoring the real time registry activity of EXPLORER.EXE with SysInternals Process Monitor on several completely clean installations of Vista.

    If you leave the "Sort ALL Programs menu by name" box CHECKED in "Customize Start Menu" properties page, it will keep the sort order of the Favorites Menu from being overwritten. This keeps EXPLORER.EXE from trying to save the "Start Menu" sort order to the wrong registry key.

    This bug makes it IMPOSSIBLE to have a custom (LOGICAL) sort order of the "Start Menu"/"All Progams" folders that will be retained boot to boot.

    I can only assume the same bug was carried over to Windows 7. Good luck trying to convince Microsoft that there is a problem. Don't think they really care about something so trivial as their user interface corner stone (EXPLORER.EXE) writing to the wrong registry key.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 11:10 PM
  • This thread got resurrected, so I should probably follow-up:  A long while back - in January 2010 - I permanently disabled the "Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu" and "Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar" settings, and I never looked back.

    I never missed those entries, in the "recently" section of the Start menu, and have gotten completely used to seeing the blank first page.  I keep my submenus organized into fairly small groups, though (unfortunately) fewer and fewer applications offer the option to help maintain this organization during installation any more.  They all just want to make root entries in the menu.  How lame is that?

    Also I've been using the Start menu Search box for things like Windows configuration stuff that I don't do very often.  I don't think I've ever actually figured out where things like "Color Management" are in the Windows menus; I just type in Color Management, it comes up, and I click it.

    All in all, it would have been NICE to have help organizing the recent list but I just didn't need the feature.  Even without it I feel I'm more productive with Windows 7 than I have ever been with any prior version of Windows.


    Monday, December 20, 2010 2:20 PM
  • Noel;

    I am going to agree with & add to what you have said.  Personally I don't get involved in conversations bashing W7 & whinging about some 'old' feature that is suggested to be a serious & very sad loss.  As far as that goes, any list, Links, Quick Launch and Programs using "Sort by Name" can be put in alphabetical order; both by Rt Cl menu selection AND it is still on the Start Menu Customize options list, even in Windows 7!!  ...the basis of grumblings oft eludes me.  I, too, have always, since way before Windows 7, disabled the list of 'used stuff' on the Start Menu... it's just plain silly.  2 things here: I have NO Desktop icons & rarely use Start Menu, in that  sense, except for the occasionally wanted Program that is not in Quick Launch... I add QL to Windows 7... that , Links & pinning mkaes the Taskbar THE quick access point, not the Start Menu.

    However, I will & do use Windows key & (W7) Search OFTEN!  Back in the XP days, Search 4.0 added to the Taskbar was a bit of a start in right direction.  Next, in Vista, it was on the Start Menu.  But, this Search ability in Windows 7 is bloody brilliant!  So many concerns become non-factors... less mousing, terrific time-saver, less digging (drilling down), less care about where something was or exactly what it was called and sure akes for a VERY infrequent need to actually use the Start menu for more than 'Search'.

    Finally, there is no question, that although there have certainly been some good things in prior OSs, using 7 is a joy like never previously possible.


    CI for your IT solutions 

    Drew MS Partner / MS Beta Tester / Pres. Computer Issues Pres. Computer Issues www.drewsci.com
    Monday, December 20, 2010 4:49 PM
  • If you bought a car radio that dumped all your station presets every time you turned it off you would take it back and complain, wouldn't ya??? Noel, we paid for software that supposed to work and it is broken.


    Sunday, January 2, 2011 12:18 AM
  • Noel, you can educe the blank you said by going to properties and setting the number of recent programs to 0.
    Sunday, January 2, 2011 12:45 AM